Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Restaurateur Salad


We drove up to the restaurant and parked at an empty meter on the opposite side of the street. The faded sign above the door spelled out the name 'Rainbow' in slanted letters, and a purple awning draped down leisurely over the entryway like the brim of a wide sun hat. Rectangular cafe style tables jutted out invitingly into the sidewalk, like window boxes waiting to be filled. It was early Sunday evening, and all the restaurants on Nicollet were relaxed and breezy.

After cooking with her at the farmers market all summer, we were finally going to check out Tammy's Chinese restaurant for the first time.
"Let's sit in the sun, eh?" Dunja said, and Christina and I emphatically agreed. Jesse stuck close to Dunja, in order to make sure that he secured a seat next to her. Although I was feeling shy about it, I went inside and told the waiter to tell Tammy that we were here to visit. She came bursting out to our table moments later and graced us with her eccentric energy and welcoming love. Soon we were all busy with conversation, and though we were sitting on the sidewalk of a busy city street, it suddenly felt as though we were five friends laughing in a quaint village cafe.

Tammy took us out back and showed us her garden, which at first glance looked like nothing more than a parking lot. As we walked around the perimeter of the restaurant, one by one the vegetables appeared against the brick. It was like when looking at a magic eye image. After staring at what appeared to be a pile of leaves and vines, I spotted a giant cucumber, then another. Tammy stroked one of the leaves, and suddenly one of the vines was filled with little cherry tomatoes. She wrapped her arms around a potted plant, and green peppers appeared. She plucked some shiso leaves for Dunja and I to taste, and then dug up a licorice root for Christina to take home, as though she knew without asking that Christina was into potted plants.

Soon the waiter came chasing us down, and it was time to return to our seats. Tammy grabbed and smoothed out the hem of her apron, the way a little girl would straighten her skirt after playing in trees, and then headed back into the kitchen. As she walked away, my mind followed her into a picture of one of many possible career directions that my heart might cheerfully go.

The Restaurateur Salad
1 package tri-colored ravioli
Boil a pot of water and cook tri-colored ravioli. Drain by scooping out with a slotted spoon and rinse with cold water. Let sit in the strainer.

In the boiling pasta water, cook 1 head romanesco (al dente) remove with a slotted spoon

Pour out the water and add 3 Tbsp olive oil to the pan. Add 3-4 cloves spicy garlic and salt and heat for 2 min (do not burn garlic). Add romanesco back into the pan and cook 2 min. Remove from heat and let cool.

Toss together 1 cup arugula, 3 small sliced heirloom tomatoes, and the romanesco and pasta. Season with salt and pepper (optional add 1 tsp apple cider vinegar).

Serve warm or cool.

Christina's vote: "This salad made me feel fat."

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